poetry for kids: the out of the box edition!

April is National Poetry Month, and as a creative writing student who concentrates her studies on mostly poetry , I love and am very comfortable reading and talking about poems.  On the other hand, I completely recognize that poetry is an acquired taste.  We study poetry in high school and college and then never seek it out again because reading this stuff can feel a lot like eating your vegetables.  Let me give you my poetry student pitch:  get rid of the "classics", the poetry canon, the stuff you last read in a textbook.  Find something written in the last couple of decades.  Modern day poetry is funny, fresh, and written in language we use today.  My oldest son wasn't too keen on poetry, so I set out to find books of poems that were unusual and fun.  Here they are .. .. . 

 Photo by kidsada Manchinda/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by kidsada Manchinda/iStock / Getty Images

Rimshots: Basketball Pix, Rolls, and Rhythms, written by Charles R. Smith, Jr. (Penguin, 1999)

"Sweet feet spin on concrete as I dribble to the beat of my own drum" - from the poem School's in Session, Rimshots


Conversation with son:  

Me: Oh, look, son!  Your thoughtful and caring mother bought you a book of poetry.  Son: audible scowl.  Goes back to reading his comic book.

conversation with son redo:

Me:  Oh look, son!  Your mother bought you a book about basketball.  Son:  Hmmm. . . I like basketball.  (plops down on couch to read said book of poems, um, I mean basketball.)


Poetry Speaks to Children, edited by Elise Paschen (Sourcebooks 2005)

This book is a wonderful collection of funny, fantastical, and just dog-gone enjoyable poems written by a variety of big name poets.  Every poem comes with pages filled with exuberant illustrations that make the poem come alive for even the youngest of readers.  What I like most about this book is that it comes with a c.d. recording of all of the poems being read by the poet themselves.  Hearing a poem instead of reading one on the page is a completely different experience.  Sometimes a poem is better designed for sound than sight. 

Rutherford B., Who Was He?  Poems About Our Presidents, by Marilyn Singer and John Hendrix (Hyperion 2013)

"By stovepipe hat, beard, large size, he's the one we recognize" - Abraham Lincoln poem

This collection of poems has verses dedicated to each of our forty three commanders-in-chief including some we know well, say Abe Lincoln and George Washington, and some we don't know so well, like William Taft or, as the title suggests, Rutherford B. Hayes.